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Hit Point Narration

How frequently do you narrate or describe hitpoint loss?


  • Total voters
    78

Nytmare

Villager
How frequently do you narrate, or describe hit point loss in terms other than "lose X hitpoints"?

The current rehash of the hitpoint discussion over in the 5th Ed threads, made me start to wonder where I fit into the DM spectrum.

I personally am at the end of the spectrum where I describe the attack or action somewhere in the 80-90% range, but drop to somewhere around "rarely" when trying to translate hitpoint gains and losses into words.
 
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Viking Bastard

Adventurer
How frequently do you narrate, or describe hit point loss in terms other than "lose X hitpoints"?
That is highly dependant on the rate of which the combatants are losing HP. If it's turn-after-turn of multiple "You hit; roll damage. He hits; rolling damage." then only the heavy and important hits are going to receive in-depth narration after a few rounds. If only to keep things going.

Otherwise, every blow, including misses.
 

Hand of Evil

Adventurer
have a list of descriptive adjectives and words I use, break down hit points into three groups. Each group have the words I use. Color code the groups, green / yellow / red

1st group GREEN: nick, scratches, pinches, bangs, etc.
2nd group YELLOW: slices, cuts, smashes, fractures, etc.
3rd group RED: pounds, crushes, dissect, dismember, etc.

So, the player that takes more damage will keep hearing the more graphic words.

Note: Synonyms are your friends.
 

Mercutio01

Villager
I said "frequently." I can't say "always" because that's too definitive, but most of the time a loss of hit points is narrated, and almost always as an actual hit that leaves a mark.
 

Tovec

Villager
I have to say I rarely narrate the actual effect of HP loss. I assume you aren't talking about making sure people know they lost HP but instead the effect of "a cut in simon's arm" kind of narration.

I do if it is important, if it is the last gasp of a character, sometimes if it is a crit or other important hit. Otherwise it is just much simpler to allow the game to keep going.

I think this evolved due to necessity. When I started playing and when I first started DMing we often had 7-8 players during games. When the average fight lasted 5 rounds that would get quite lengthy to narrate every hit from every character.

Now that I'm running a heavily modified (hoping to make it officially OGL) game I am trying to narrate things more than I used to. In my variation hits are actually hits, as opposed to hits absorbed by armor or avoided by dodge. I like the feeling I provoke when the fighter is hit by a crit and has a wound in his side, between the plates, that just keeps bleeding.

I think the other problem is that with armor and AC working the way it does, along with HP being as high as it is - that HP loss is hard to narrate. How do you describe that the fighter got hit hard (let's say 20 damage - enough to kill lower level characters) but is still fine and able to keep going? How do you do it routinely. Do those attacks just become less and less effective.. that a 20 HP hit (from 100) is the same as a 2 HP hit when he has 10? Or that he is able to exercise more skill and control, opening himself up for less of an attack.

My problem with either explanation is that it lacks consistency. It can be narrated that he avoids the attack the first time, but half as much damage can drop him later and you have to narrate it differently. That is part of the benefit in my system, where if it is a recurring wound that I can narrate it as such and if it is a hard hit that it remains a hard hit even if he is still standing.

Kind of nonsensical, I know, but that's what I do.
 

Jacob Marley

Villager
Good poll question. This is something I have often wondered about.

I don't narrate. To me an attack is either a hit or a miss; nothing more, nothing less. Damage is damage. It is purely an abstraction.
 

AeroDm

Villager
It stars with significant narration and trails into none. The first few rounds I try to set the cinematic scene with an abundance of narration. After that I try to keep combat moving briskly to keep interest high, and that means less narration.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
I voted rarely, but that's because I'm not sure I'd want to count "Ooh! He whacks you good!" as narration.

Gods, I hate this mechanic for engendering all these tail-chasing arguments.
 

Mark Hope

Explorer
Always. My players don't know their characters' hit points, so all the numbers are kept behind the screen and they get a narrative representation of what's going on.
 

Johnny3D3D

Adventurer
I narrate wounds. I prefer HP systems in which HP represents something tangible.

With that in mind, I would say I narrate HP more often than not.
 
I voted "sometimes". My intention is to do so more often - that every attack should be narrated. The reality is less impressive, in that I'm frequently busy with a bunch of other monsters as well, and would rather move on with the combat rather than spend even a couple of seconds narrating beyond "a hit, 5 damage", or whatever.
 

Verdande

Villager
Depends on what I'm playing and whether the vitality system lends itself to actually meaning anything.

In D&D, I'll usually give it a quick "The demon hits you in the head with its tentacle, that's 20 hit points lost," because hit points don't really mean anything on their own. It's a completely abstract number that dwindles when you get smacked, and that doesn't do anything until you are completely out. I'm not sure how else I'd narrate that sort of thing.

In pretty much any other system, attacks get more narration, mostly because the game doesn't have as many of them and I don't get bored as fast. How many different ways can you describe a sword attack before you start to repeat yourself, anyways?


Always. My players don't know their characters' hit points, so all the numbers are kept behind the screen and they get a narrative representation of what's going on.
See now, this is bizarre to me. I like to have my players know what's going on mechanically. This is partly because we're all aware it's mechanical abstractions and we're cool with that, and partly because I really don't want to keep track of everything myself.
 
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Mark Hope

Explorer
See now, this is bizarre to me. I like to have my players know what's going on mechanically. This is partly because we're all aware it's mechanical abstractions and we're cool with that, and partly because I really don't want to keep track of everything myself.
Bizarre. OR... awesome!

Sometimes I don't even tell them what game we're playing. We had this kick-ass game the other week where half the group thought they were tackling the Tomb of Horrors. Turned out we were playing the Willow boardgame. Ha! That showed them!
 
I rarely narrate damage myself, but I've gotten in the habit of inviting players to narrate crits and kills.

I have a pretty concrete idea of what what damage and HPs are though, so I could be narrating more. (Damage is damage, and HPs are a kind of superhuman protection.)
 

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